Staying the course-Heads Up vs. Heads Down!

One of the real thrills of owning your own business is that you get to do a lot of different and exciting things each day. (Otherwise known as wearing many different hats!)  At any given time throughout your day you may wear a sales hat, a production hat, the bookkeeper’s hat, or even the secretary’s or a manager’s hat.  And sometimes several of them all at the same time!  Life in the fast lane!

With all the “hat changing” small business owners do it’s no wonder so many of them experience early baldness or chronic bad hair days! This is also why whenever I hear a business owner complain about being bored I believe it’s a pretty clear indication that he or she simply doesn’t understand their job/mission/role as an entrepreneur.  (Or maybe he is just “totally clueless”!)

But wearing a lot of different business hats can also be one of the most challenging things in life. Take for instance the issue of Heads Up vs. Heads Down.  Say what?

You see, the day we decide to go into business for ourselves is also the day we agree to be the CEO of our new company. And one of the main tasks of CEOs is to keep their “heads up” and establish the long-term vision of their company.  However, they also need to keep their “heads down” and take responsibility for the company’s short-term performance.  Got it?  “Short-term vs. long-term.”

When I talk about long-term vision I’m not referring to a fancy Vision Statement that’s nicely framed in a place of honor in your company’s lobby.  Rather, your long-term vision is a crystal-clear vision of where you want your company to go— a picture so clear and specific that you talk about it daily with your employees.  This “Heads UP” vision should be so real that your people routinely and automatically are guided by it in their daily decisions.

The challenge?  Allowing yourself to be forced into short-term “course corrections” that threaten to cloud or even derail your long-term “Heads Up” vision.  So your job is to stay focused on your long-range goals/vision even when the daily distractions thrown by your customers, employees and cash flow (lack of it) threaten to pull you off track.

Now let’s talk short-term “Heads Down”.  Simply put, short-term performance is based on profitably delivering a product or service to your customers AND making all the daily decisions that will ensure this routinely and consistently happens month after month, year after year. Don’t underestimate this task…

“Heads Down” can be a “many-headed monster”.  It includes hiring, training, and keeping great people on board at your company so your consistent service delivery does not depend on you being there screaming at your employees.  (Steve would add you need the Business Infrastructure to guide these great people.)  It involves making sure you have the equipment to allow your people to deliver outstanding service.  You must also make sure you have enough cash to make payroll, pay your bills, and set a little aside for the future. It requires constantly improving your own skills—both technical and managerial.

WOW!  Discouraged yet?  But now the Heads Up vs. Heads Down plot thickens.  Perhaps the greatest skill the Heads Up vs. Heads Down scenario requires is your ability to balance the long-range and short-range priorities of your business AND to be able to shift gears between them on a moment’s notice as individual situations demand.

So, if you’ve been noticing a little crick in your neck lately it just might be because you’ve been doing a good job of keeping your Head Up AND your Head Down. Keep up the good work!

Chuck Violand (more about Chuck)
SFS Instructor
CEO Violand Management Associates

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